Robin de Voh
writer, developer, nerd

Nanoprep 2018 Day 3: Amsterdam By Night

By Robin de Voh on 2018-10-03

He said goodbye to his friend he'd just had dinner and a catch-up session with and walked away. He put on his headphones and turned them on.

"Connected."

He hit the play button and a rough punk song started playing. He looked around, saw no traffic, and crossed the street. Amsterdam was nice in darkness. You could hardly see all the grime. He knew he was close to what some considered the seedier part, red lights drawing attention to ladies for hire, coffee shops selling weed, shady guys talking shadily in the even shadier parts of the streets. But he felt fine, it was just an area where legal-enough business was being done and nobody bothered him as he walked along.

Another song came on, a retro-electronic song by Perturbator, a synthwave musician who used to be the guitarist in a metal band but his side project got popular enough that it became his main gig. He was going to a live show by him sometime next year. He didn't often book tickets that far in advance, but some friends were going and he had impulsively said 'fuck yeah' and purchased one as well. He was looking forward to it. He hadn't been to many non-rock shows and it was supposed to be a blast.

It had been a nice evening. It was starting to get colder as the year started to wind down, but it wasn't freezing yet. The restaurant had been too busy to sit inside so they had sat outside instead. Probably wouldn't be possible a few weeks from now, he thought as he crossed another road, jumping out of the way of a cyclist without lights on.

"Asshole," he muttered under his breath.

Not that he had lights on his bike, but that was fine. His bike also had two flat tires and ruined rims, so it wasn't like he was causing any issues with it anymore anyway. It had been a good excuse to walk more, and even though he'd had weeks to get his bike fixed, he hadn't put in the effort because not being able to be lazy and grab the bike had improved his walking regimen immensely. He felt the results in his calves, but he knew he had to do more to really get past some of the damage he'd accrued over the years.

A few years before, a bicycle accident had messed up his wrist enough that it had required surgery, but it had taken months for the surgery to actually take place. Replacing the ruined wrist's functionality had caused him to overwork his other arm and shoulder, and though the surgery had fixed his wrist, the rest was still messed up. He'd had massages, physical therapy, but none of it seemed to really help.

But he'd gotten used to it. It just hurt. Pain can be pushed to the background, and it had worked so far. It sometimes flared up beyond the 'normal' level and then he'd remember that something was wrong, but it would always dip back down again and all was good enough again.

It was what had taken some joy out of playing the drums for him. The muscle pulling in his shoulder would always start to hurt after a song or 3 and then he'd had to struggle through whatever time was left until he was done. During rehearsal, 2 hours or so. During a live show? Half an hour, tops.

The band he was in at the time had realized very early on that nobody was all that interested listening to the chaos they produced for longer than 30 minutes. Neither could they, which neatly explained why all their albums were around 30 minutes long.

Thinking about his old band, he remembered the first punk album he'd ever bought. He'd heard the band -- The Bouncing Souls -- perform live on a radio show, and he'd been impressed. He hadn't been into punk at all up until then, but something in their songs -- the energy, the fun -- called out to him. He'd gone out and ordered it at the local alternative record store, because they didn't have it at that time. When he eventually got it, he saw the pattern he still remembered to this day. He paid 36 bucks for it. It lasted for 26 minutes. It had 16 songs. Too perfect.

He turned left, into the alley, and saw the red lights in the distance. It was a shortcut, but it always felt a little weird walking through here. Like he was part of something he wasn't supposed to be.

Speaking of patterns, it was something that helped him in his job. When trying to find why something is going wrong, you either follow the trail of errors until you find where it was caused, or there's no path to follow. In cases such as those, often the only thing you can do is to create a path. Either you start adding points to the flow so you can recognize where the flow strays from the expected path, or you look at what the flow is doing and try to find anything out of the ordinary.

He had a knack for seeing patterns and recognizing them as being out of the ordinary.

A guy in front of him suddenly stopped, and he almost bumped into him. The guy turned and apologized, then went left, up a staircase, into one of the red-lit rooms. "Right," he thought to himself as he started walking again.

Back to the train of thought, he decided. The pattern recognition also extended to the people around him. He didn't have a natural knack for reading people's intentions or emotions, so he approached interpersonal contact the only way he knew how -- methodical. Recognizing patterns, testing the waters, finding people's dos and donts and remembering all of it to apply as needed. In the past he'd felt disingenuous about it, like he was tricking people, but over the years he'd accepted that everybody has their odd little quirks and this was one of his. He'd always made sure to be as honest and respectful as possible, but nobody's perfect and he'd made his fair share of mistakes.

"That's how you learn," he mumbled as he waved to the car to just keep going. After the car had passed, he crossed the road and turned the corner. He could see the train station in the distance and realized he hadn't passed by here in weeks. He used to pass by here every day, but he'd changed his route.

He was okay with that.

It was fine to shake things up a little from time to time.

"Write what you know" time again. So, uhm... Yep.